David Graff (from the album Supposed to Fly available as a self-release)
It is not the great beyond but the great what-if’s that David Graff faces in “Supposed to Fly”, listing missteps and pitfalls that plague the promise life offered in the title track for his recent release. In his personal/professional life, David Graff has flown into multiple mediums for his art. Beginning as a touring drummer in his native southern Alberta, moving on to guitar and songwriting before relocating to Vancouver and recording in Los Angeles in the late 80’s/early 90’s. David Graff’s creative energy turned to visual art by the late 1990’s and a move to Bowen Island in British Columbia found him combining metallic leaf, transparent color glazes and high sheen resin that gained recognition for his art. He circled back to music in 2010, again by drumming, and put together a new batch of tracks to head into the studio with backing band The Continental Grifters for Supposed to Fly.
David Graff dances a waltz before grabbing a seat at “Best Bar in Hell” as Supposed to Fly saddles up a Country ramble to head west into “Tough City”, follows the patter of banjo notes across the Soft Rock of “The Only One I’ve Got”, and stutters out a beat to lay out a challenge in “Another Way to Hurt Me”. Twang touches the Folk Rock for “Suzanne”, honky tonk Country revs up for “I Love My Truck”, and dreamy Rock drifts lazily along “Vapour Trail”, David Graff shapeshifting the audio backing for the tracks while maintaining his signature on each tune. Supposed to Fly adds some hard Blues to the road bar reality and Country-tinged advice in “Can’t Trust That Woman (After Dark)” while David Graff puts a triphammer heartbeat under “Watch Over the Ones I Love” and claims the skin he wears as a wanderer searching for love in “Blue”.
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Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers (from the album Bought to Rot available on Bloodshot Records)
The debut from Against Me! guitar player and vocalist Laura Jane Grace is for all extensive purposes a side project, solo steps taken with The Devouring Mothers on an album separate from the body of work released from her still very active punk band. Yet Bought to Rot keeps things close by the Against Me! camp with the band’s drummer Atom Willard and sound engineer Marc Hudson making up The Devouring Mothers, Laura Jane Grace’s low in number but high in wallop backing band. Grace felt the songs weren’t quite right for an Against Me! album, yet similar to the band there is plenty of angst and vocal rage proudly displayed on the at times profane album; Grace still standing tall with an axe to grind and Bought to Rot will do the job on sharpening it up.
“China Beach” kicks the album off, a punchy and aggressive opener where Laura Jane Grace moves from spoken word tones to full on throat damaging screaming.
“Apocalypse Now (& Later)” is initially driven by an acoustic guitar with whispers of some delicate jangle about being with the proper person for the world’s last moments.
“I Hate Chicago” name drops numerous Chicago landmarks, including people and bands from the city; if the vitriol is tongue in cheek Laura Jane Grace does a fantastic job playing it off, yet ultimately lets the listener off the hook, revealing the city is nothing more than a punching bag for anger brought on by divorce.Musically Bought to Rot moves around; jangly rock rubs elbows with subtle punk, while cuts like “Screamy Dreamy,” “The Hotel Song” and closer “The Apology Song” are ballads that still carry a dose of aggression. (by Bryant Liggett)
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decker. (from the album Born to Wake Up available on The Royal Potato Family)
Circling back to an earlier view of humanity, decker. samples Joni Mitchell’s vision of Woodstock (‘you’re stardust, you’re golden, you’re billion-year old carbon’) with his own opinions on “The Garden”. The tune is one of the many observations on life and its living that decker. gathers on his recent release, Born to Wake Up. The songs on Born to Wake Up are personal souvenirs that decker. has collected on his journey back to a homebase in Sedona, Arizona, the songwriter harnessing the mystical power of the red rock mountains and canyons in words and music. The collection receives credit from its creator, the cuts on Born to Wake Up coming to decker. while hiking the mountains near his home, the musician feeling that ‘this album is all about going where the flow leads. For the last ten years, I've pushed hard, but I realized that there's more reward in letting go, in being open to the where songs and life's currents naturally lead you. It was an important lesson for me to learn, both as an artist and as a human being’.
A rhythm laps against the drift of “Smudge”, the music meandering, guided by a thick bass line as Born to Wake Up corners “The Matador” with sharp-angled guitar notes, gently travels in memory to “Mexico”, and strums brittle chords to ignite the trial fire in the storyline of “Burnin’ Grass” (a tribute to Tom Petty). .decker (aka Brandon Decker) creates an experience on Born to Wake Up, offering an audio explanation of the lessons learned from the environment, striding into “Awake” on regimented footsteps that lead into a predestined life, meeting “The Strawman” on a slow trudge of rhythm, and offering advice to “The Saint” on a soundtrack of dreamscape Pop.
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Ace of Cups (from the album Ace of Cups available on High Moon Records)
The world passes in the blink of an eye and yet time continues to wait until the right moment to open its door. Prior to their recent High Moon Records debut, Ace of Cups were ground-zero, card-carrying members of the Haight-Ashbury (San Francisco) music scene of the 1960’s, taking their name from the Tarot card that shows an image of five streams of water flowing from one cup. The band appeared at legendary spots from Golden Gate Park to Winterland, and Ace of Cups seemed destined to follow peers Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and other SF-bands into rock’n’roll legend. All careers, however, are in direct result of one decision at a time and Ace of Cups never signed a record deal. Four of the original five band members come together for Ace of Cups, a long-awaited self-titled debut from females who influenced a historical music scene.
Sonically, the songs on the Ace of Cups debut find their way back to the musical environment of the band’s 1960 origins yet while the music stays true, the stories have followed the musicians through life. An immediacy grips “We Can’t Go Back Again”, the tale claims of the narrator confident and bold, foregoing any desperate pleas. Ace of Cups promises “Mama’s Love” on a Blues march, tenderly offers “Simplicity” against a backdrop of fractured guitar notes, and uses six-string jangle to envision “Fantasy 1 & 4”. Friends join Ace of Cups, Buffy Sainte-Marie helping to stir the swampy brew of melody in “Pepper in the Pot”, Bob Weir (solo, Grateful Dead) leading the tale of “The Well” as the band back the song with desert rhythms, and Taj Mahal calling out as four voices harmonically respond in “Life in Your Hands”. Ace of Cups plug into the generational power of rock’n’roll, strumming power chords to carve out a groove in “Feel Good” as the self-titled debut spins a carnival kaleidoscope melody to send out a love letter to “Pretty Boy” and lets the voices of the band create a choral magic in “Music”.
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The Marcus King Band (from the album Carolina Confessions available on Fantasy Records)
By the time The Marcus King Band make their way through the raw revelations of “Confessions” all the sonic levels are in place to offer emotional support for the vocals/guitar playing combo of the group’s frontman. The recent release, Carolina Confessions, listens to Marcus King sing with an easy familiarity to the stories, his voice erasing the line between words and music. The rhythm falls like the backdrop in “Autumn Rains”, tumbling playfully while the steps are heavy as “Welcome ‘Round Here” follows the beat into a Southern Gothic sound and “Where I’m Headed” rides along with horns hanging of its Southern Rock strums.
Produced by Dave Cobb in Nashville, Carolina Confessions relates the personal experiences of Marcus King, his life playing across the songs, his disclosures of day-to-day life an inspirational DIY guide to feeling better about experience’s roller coaster ride. Entering numbers into a phone takes too long, Marcus King Band broadcasting bad decisions on the radio dial in “8 A.M.” while late night noir plays tag with the low mood of “Homesick” as Carolina Confessions lets guitar and voice take over the center stage spotlight, making an exit by handing over the broken pieces of its characters as they bid “Goodbye Carolina”.
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Matt Walsh (from the album The Midnight Strain available on Full Bloom Records)
An early education for Statesville, North Carolina’s Matt Walsh came from the Blues. His mother presented a background with rhythm, giving lessons with her love of Motown while his late uncle shared a record collection that included 1950’s electric Blues artists from Chess and Stax as well 1960’s Rock’n’Roll. The influence is a sound that organically includes the Blues that formed a soundtrack for a younger Matt Walsh, who in turn fills in the sound with his own touches of Country, Folk, and Psychedelia. The blending of genres becomes a fluid torrent on his recent release, The Midnight Strain. Matt Walsh cruises into “Drive Me Away” with the needle buried deep into electric Blues Rock as The Midnight Strain twists the radio dial for a Country ramble in the title track, picks out Folk Blues to introduce “Ike and Daisy”, and meditates on a mantra of trance riffs for “Guru Blues”.
In 2010, Matt Walsh formed a band with drummer Austin Hicks as The Low Counts, the no frills energy of the drum-guitar duo giving them a fanbase nurtured by three album releases prior to Austin passing away suddenly, Matt returned as a solo artist, releasing his first album in a decade in 2017 (Life After Rock’n’Roll). The Midnight Strain stirs a swampy groove into the Jazz-inflected melody of “Sitting on Empty” while Matt Walsh plucks and picks both acoustic and electric notes to hold off the ‘clowns and vampires’ circling in “Don’t Hold Your Breath”, barrels into “Here We Go Again” with a beat to match the stories resolve, and admits “She Belongs to the Bottle” on top shelf bar band Blues.
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Shinyribs (from the album The Kringle Tingle available on Mustard Lid Records)
There are stars of every season, and no matter how the holiday season is celebrated, everybody knows the man from the great white North Pole. Shinyribs borrows a couple tracks from tradition, penning a few of his own love letters to Santa with his original words on his seasonal release, The Kringle Tingle. The theme is clear as Shinyribs promises that “Santa Comes to Atlanta” and foregoes the chimney for a clandestine entry in “Back Door Santa” as he re-works Soul on a couple of homemade songs borrowing Funky rhythms from James Brown for “Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and wrapping the music of TLC’s “Waterfalls” up as “Don’t Go Chasing Santa Claus”.
A love story finds its way onto The Kringle Tingle as two souls follow the glow of ‘some shitty Christmas lights’ into the tale of “Christmas Time in Bossier City” as the soundtrack swirls in eddies of soft Soul and Shinyribs leads a salvation seeking conga line into a tent show, shaking a tambourine for the Gospel Blues of “Last Month of the Year”. Memories of Peanuts past are the gateway into The Kringle Tingle as the album opens with “Linus and Lucy” while Shinyribs decorates with Tex Mex for “Xmas on the Isthmus” and locks the color wheel on blue for Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas”.
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Eden Brent (from the album An Eden Brent Christmas with Bob Dowell available on Yellow Dog Records)
Romance on the high seas led to a holiday tradition when Eden Brent and Bob Dowell gathered in Eden’s hometown of Greenville, Mississippi for the Christmas season. Their personal relationship began after meeting on a 2008 Blues cruise, the couple marrying and Bob relocating to the U.S. from his home in London, England. The pair translate the magic of the season into song with An Eden Brent Christmas with Bob Dowell. Partnering Eden Brent’s branded Gulf Coast Blues boogie with Royal Academy of Music graduate Bob Dowell and his work on trombone and as an arranger proved a musical match. The result tags sonic traditions of lush 1950/1960’s Pop in the Jazz and Blues styles.
The album keeps stockings swinging, An Eden Brent Christmas swaying on a winter weather reading from the couple as Eden and Bob Dowell duet on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. Eden Brent snuggles into a Blue Jazz rhythm that keeps the beat bouncing through the forecast of “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow” while she makes a wish list with a seductive Blues to address “Santa Baby”, waits patiently in ¾ time with “The Christmas Waltz”, and rocks a little to shake off the chill of “Blue Christmas”. Recorded in Memphis, Tennessee with the city’s A-List players, An Eden Brent Christmas with Bob Dowell, the musicians hushing the melody to a whisper to share “That’s What I Want for Christmas” as Eden’s piano introduces a shuffle for “Winter Wonderland” while the drum lays down a second line beat that becomes a rhumba once the big guy is spotted in “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”. Dubbed Little Boogaloo for her keyboard work, Eden Brent borrows a song with the same swing from Mabel Scott to open An Eden Brent Christmas with “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” as she quietly offers “Have Yourself a Merry Little Chrismas” and exits the album namechecking signs of the season with “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”.
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Gibson Brothers (from the album Mockingbird available on Easy Eye Sound)
“Mockingbird” is a dose of country music history, the title track for their recent release showing as something that has been apparently studied and reproduced on the Gibson Brothers latest album offering. Mockingbird is a collection of songs that hits on the various eras of country music, going from Bluegrass and Old-Time music acoustic numbers, honky-tonk rambles and Outlaw Country cuts to richly produced tracks relying less on twang and more on Pop. The result is a song by song stroll through sounds representing country music through the years of recorded music. “Travelin’ Day” is a beautiful album opener, a woeful number with a Charlie-Rich feel when the pedal steel guitar can be tries to be heard from behind the bluesy piano. “Cool Drink of Water” is perhaps the radio hit of the album, where a big hook kicking into a narrative about having a truck and a need to escape. It is ripe for a sing-a-long and ready for a video on CMT, a fan-loving tune ready-made for blaring out of a boom-box for fans tailgating at a country music jam.
“Lay Your Body Down” would make Conway Twitty proud, a bouncing number from the time when country music was transitioning from outlaw-grit to pop-polish. The curveball comes from their cover of REM’s “Everybody Hurts” and they do it up with plenty of R&B inspiration, subtle twang making the cover extra-weepy. Co-produced by Dan Auerbach (solo, The Black Keys), Mockingbird is an album that may be a bit out of the Gibson Brothers regular bluegrass wheelhouse. Traditionalists may shy away but fans of more modern country and 70’s country-rock may have a new favorite. (by Bryant Liggett)
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Dylan Walshe (from the album All Manner of Ways available as a self-release)
The bitterness of Guiness Stout that gives the liquid thickness, the words of Dylan Walshe bear a heartiness of tone, providing a deep soul-search for both author and listener. The ale and the songman share a point of origin, both starting out in Dublin, Ireland, each leaving home to take on the world, Dylan Walshe landing in Tennessee, recording his recent release All Manner of Ways in his new base of East Nashville. Dylan finds himself ‘close to blind faith’ as he grips the story with the same determination as the steadily rising sonics of “Cut It Down” while he views both sides of the coin in “Luck is the Beggar, Luck is a King”. All Manner of Ways lives darker days in “Same Old Prayer” joined by James Fearnley of The Pogues, the accordion player returning when Dylan Walshe nostalgically hints at home with a wistful Irish lilt to the melody that glides through “Where Dublin Meets Wicklow”.
A brotherhood of Irish music gathers around Dylan Walshe. He played his first gig in his new home of Nashville with Spider Stacy of The Pogues on St. Patrick’s Day at Music City’s Nashville Palace, meeting Flogging Molly and joining the band on the Irish Punk band’s music cruise through the Bahamas as well their 2017 tour alongside The White Buffalo. Lush strings and heavy drumbeats lap at the thick bass rhythm that flows underneath “At Sea” as All Manner of Ways moodily points a finger in “Blind is Blind”, sinking deeper into somber confessions for “Ruined” as Dylan Walshe twirls strings and beats around “Death Dance”.
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